Review: Kama Sutra (1997)

Directed by:
Cast: , , , ,

Distributed in Australia by:

The word that springs to mind when talking about this film is “lush”. Sets, costumes, cast, locations, all are opulent and beautiful. I could wax lyrical in much more detail, but I’m afraid I’d use up my store of adjectives, and be reduced to reviews of two sentences for the rest of the year.

The film is set in 16th century India, and tells the story of two friends, Maya and Tara. Tara is the daughter of a prince, while Maya is the daughter of a dancer. While both girls are beautiful, Maya is the more talented dancer, and Maya resents her secondhand role in life just as Tara resents Maya’s greater seductive powers. When Tara wins the prize of a betrothal to a handsome prince, Maya spoils the occasion by sneaking in to the prince’s room and seducing him, thereby setting in train the events that will break Tara’s heart and lead to her own expulsion from the palace.

The film meanders on in the wake of Maya, who is lucky in her exile: she finds a handsome suitor, who finds her a place to live indefinitely while she dallies with said suitor, who is kept busy creating temple sculptures when he’s not canoodling. Now this seemed to me fairly unlikely: a beautiful homeless woman roaming around the place generally doesn’t find such agreeable friends in the first day, and no-one that I know of has been offered board and lodgings free of charge for an indefinite time. But this is a romance, and so we expect a little unreality.

Thus we trail along in Maya’s wake, watching her life without really becoming involved in it in any depth. Her emotions seem sometimes capricious, sometimes shallow, and sometimes an overreaction, but this doesn’t really set her apart: all the characters in this film manifest inconsistencies and unappealing features from time to time. This doesn’t really impact too unfavourably on the film as a whole, though, since the plot and characters are of secondary importance here.

What is of primary importance, as I may have alluded to earlier, is the opulence of the visuals: glorious scenery, fabulous costumes, and beautiful cast, all highlighted by superb camerawork, make this a sort of all-you-can-ogle visual banquet. We don’t care that much about the pretext provided for the characters’ behaviours: what matters is the slow saunter through the temple, the artfully arranged draperies, or the lounging upon the divan.

There is also, of course, the nookie. A lot of it, in fact. Boggins. All very stylishly done, of course, and genuinely erotic. Whether or not it’s all vital to the plot is immaterial, since the plot itself is at least partially immaterial: we’re given ample footage of beautiful people having the sort of beautiful film sex that doesn’t make squelchy noises and is invariably monumentally satisfying for both partners.

In summary, if you want socio-political commentary or historical accuracy, look elsewhere. Likewise if you’re disturbed by a thin plot or inconsistent characters. But if you want to look at some glorious visuals and don’t mind lashings of sex, then this is the film for you.

7 silk draperies out of 10.
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